This festival ‘Maghe Sankranti’ means the first day of Magh month in the Nepali calendar (Lunar calendar). The first day of the Magh month is being celebrated as a festival all over Nepal by eating a special dish for the day. In Kirati communities, it is considered the new year. They usually eat various roots like sweet potato, taro root, peanuts and other edible vegetables that grow under the ground. According to a report in Kantipur (read Nepali article), the Yele year 3797 starts on January 15, 2018.
This festival is also called Makar Sankranti. To celebrate the festival devotees take holy dips in rivers and ponds, and worship various gods and eat various delicacies like ghee, yam, khichadi and sweets like chaku and sweets made of sesame and molasses. A special delicacy prepared by mixing black gram and rice with hot spices and ghee known as Khichadi is also served on the day.
According to astrological chart, the Makar Sankranti festival has a special significance as the sun enters into the northern hemisphere after this day. On the day, the sun moves from the tropic of Sagittarius to the tropic of Capricorn. People believe that the days get longer from the day. But, according to science, the days actually start get longer on December 21. According to religious texts, ‘Bhabisya Puran’ and ‘Dharma Sindhu’ the devotees get special blessings and will get robust body if they observe the festival as per the rituals.
The festival also has significance in the view of Ayurveda and medical science. Food items that are taken on this day are the sources of balance diet which increase the immunity power of the body.
To celebrated the festival a large number of devotees gather in Devghat, Barahchhetra, Ridi, Panauti, Dolalghat and Kankai in Nepal and Prayag and Gangasagar in India. The people take a holy bath and perform Sharaddha on the day. A mela is also organized at the Tilmadhav Narayan Temple at Taumadhi Tol, Bhaktapur where Pooja of Deepakankar Buddha is performed.
The Newar Community in Kathmandu observe the festival by taking ghee, chaku and remembering the departed souls. In Newari, the festival is called as ‘Ghyo Chaku Sallnhu’. The seniors help juniors in applying mild-hot edible oil to their heads heads. Tharu Community observes this festival as the Maghi with much fanfare and gaiety for five days.
Women of Magar community in a program organized to celebrate Maghi Festival at Tudikhel
Women in traditional Tharu attire to celebrate Maghi Festival at Tudikhel in the capital on Saturday. January 14, 2017. photo credit – Sanjog Manandhar